Will My Wife's Benefits Be Affected By Her Hungarian Pension?

Jan 7 2017 - 5:30am

I am turning 70 and retired. I have been collecting SS benefits since I reached my full retirement age (66). My wife and I have been married for 2 years. She is a Hungarian citizen and permanent resident of the US since 2015. She is turning 63 in 2017. She will begin receiving a foreign pension from Hungary beginning this year (2017). She has some SS credits (about 7) from consulting work performed in 2014 and 2015. She may earn a few more credits between now and her "full US retirement age" of 66 in 2020. However under no circumstance can she earn enough credits between now and 2020 to qualify for SS benefits based on her own earnings record. We plan to apply for spousal benefits based on my earning record in either 2019 or 2020 when she turns 65 or 66. Question: Will her spousal benefit be reduced because of her foreign pension? Does the WEP rule apply to our situation? Does the Totalization agreement between the US and Hungary that went into affect in September 2016 impact our situation?

Thank You

Hi,

The good news is that your wife's pension from Hungary will not affect her spousal benefits on your record. Foreign pensions are excluded from the definition of a government pension for purposes of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf).

The Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf) only applies to benefits payable on a person's own Social Security record, and doesn't affect totalization benefits (i.e. benefits based on combined credits from the US and a foreign Social Security program). Since your wife has at least 6 quarters of US Social Security coverage, she may qualify for a totalization benefit including credits for her work in Hungary, but that may not matter much in her case. Your wife would essentially receive the higher of a) her own totalized benefit or b) 50% of your full retirement age benefit rate, so if the latter amount is higher, there would be little or no advantage to the fact that she qualifies for the totalized benefit on her own record.

Best, Jerry